In November 2018, six year old Leah from St Helens started complaining of a sore back. A few weeks later she was struggling to sit up straight in her car seat.
Little Leah’s pain continued over the coming months with her appetite and energy levels also affected. Her GP immediately referred her to hospital where it was discovered that she had a large lump on the bottom of her spine.
Here at Alder Hey Leah was diagnosed with a tumour that ran from her spine into her abdomen and around the arteries that supply the blood to her legs.
Leah’s dad Stephen said: “The realisation of how serious this was hit me like a train. What the doctor said will live with me forever. Our hearts just broke on the spot. We had never felt so empty and helpless.”
Leah underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy but it wasn’t reducing the tumour. Surgery was Leah’s only option.
Her dad told us “They called it the impossible tumour as there was only around a 10% chance of them being able to remove the tumour without causing Leah major harm. Under normal circumstances this would have been excruciating to hear but 10% is after all, a chance and that is all we wanted to hear.”
The surgery team used an innovative 3D model of Leah’s tumour printed at Alder Hey which helped prepare and plan for the operation.
In August 2019 surgeons operated on Leah at Alder Hey. After eight hours her mum and dad were told that Leah was not only OK but that surgeons had managed to remove most of the “impossible” tumour.
Stephen said: “We broke down into ﬂoods of tears. I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to hear those words... what was the worst day of our lives had suddenly become the best day.”
Throughout her time in hospital, our charity was proud to stand side by side with Leah and her family. From regular music sessions that supported her well-being by encouraging movement, to helping our Play Team to make hospital life fun, we go above and beyond every day.
Thankfully by January 2020 Leah rang the end of treatment bell in front of her family and the Alder Hey staff on the ward that treated her.
Stephen said: “The amazing surgeons at Alder Hey did it; they saved my daughter’s life when others would not have taken the risk. The easy option would have been to say no and walk away, but they didn’t and they turned the impossible into a possible.”
Alder Hey Charity has funded 3D Printing and immersive distraction technology, our Arts for Health programme and helped us to invest in research here at our world-leading campus to understand and treat childhood cancer. This has changed Leah’s life.
“We want to do all we can to thank Alder Hey Hospital and Charity. Words will never be enough, but thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Leah’s story features in our Spring Appeal, dropping through letter boxes around the North West now and made all the more urgent by the current COVID-19 crisis.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is working relentlessly to continue to support all of our children and their families but our amazing NHS family needs our help right now. These are unusual circumstances and we really do need to go above and beyond for our children and young people.
We stand side by side with our NHS friends in times of crisis to provide the very best for our brave young patients. During this time Alder Hey’s specialist facilities and staff will be even more vital as we continue to support the 330,000 children cared for at Alder Hey each year plus the additional children we will be treating as we take on extra capacity from hospitals from all over the region. We will continue to build happy, healthy futures for our inspiring children and young people who need our care in child-friendly surroundings. Children just like Leah.
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